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Guilted into blogging once again March 18, 2008

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, Other, web 2.0.
2 comments

Raincoaster has guilted me into posting, I’m afraid. On the post below, which was about how I was being very good and exercising three times a week, she comments:

Yes, but what kind of BLOGGING equipment do you use? And do you use it three times a week??????????????

Well, no. One glance at the dates on my last few posts and you will quickly find yourself reading about things that happened in October.

Raincoaster is right, of course, as usual. I fooled myself into believing that I was keeping in good blogging form because my job requires me to use a similar skill-set. I write for a living and analyze things and am called upon to have opinions about things, and I thought that would be enough. But my blogging muscles are now flabby and atrophied. I will try to do better, Raincoaster, honestly, I will.

If anyone is responsible for keeping this blogging and social networking stuff alive in the coming years, it will be people like raincoaster. Yeah, it’s scary, but that’s one of the reasons you like her, isn’t it?

100 Books Meme – Summary Statistics September 13, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogs, Blogs and Blogging, Books, COMBS, literature, memes, Other.
3 comments

The 100Books meme has made the rounds of the blogosphere for some time now, and I have examined the responses of 200 blogs, but haven’t yet decided what it all means.  Partially, this has to do with the eccentricity of the list itself.  Respondents are predominently within a demographic that I can only describe as “literate knitters.”  Hard to generalize from it, is what I mean to say.  I’ve got a plan to remedy that, which I’ll get to later.  First, here are the boring summary statistics as a pdf

The blogger in the sample who read the fewest read only four of these books.  One blogger claimed to have read 90 of them. And the average blogger claimed to have read 39 of them.  [I would have read 39 of them, too, if I had read all of the books I was supposed to read in school.  But I charted my own course, which explains my disappointing grades.]

I haven’t had much chance to look at the cross-tabulations yet, but I did notice a couple of oddities:

  1. Eleven people read Tolkien’s Return of the King without having read The Fellowship of the Ring.  What, if any, is the deal with that?
  2. Ten people read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but did not read Harry Potter and the Sourceror’s Stone (AKA HP and the Philosopher’s Stone).  Similarly, WTF?

More to come.

Creative Blogger Award #1 September 7, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogger, blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, Other.
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As a distinguished receipient of the Creative Blogger Award, I have to give out five of them myself, but I am going to space them out a little bit.  I never seem to have a big block of time to post stuff. 

The first Creative Blogger Award goes to Sky Fishing, the brainchild of Prairie Flounder.  According to its originator, the Creative Blogger is for

those who bring unique and creative elements to their blogs. For those who incorporate art, music, creative writing, photo’s, and other beautiful visual effects into their website. For those who put a unique spin on things and come up with new ideas. This award is for the artsy, the funky, the inventor, and even the rebel. This award is for those creative individuals who stand out from the crowd.

PF is inventive, artsy, and a rebel.  But his site, Sky Fishing, has some other things that keep me coming back.  There are lots of creative and interesting blogs out there.  But I lose interest in most of them fairly quickly.  It is only the blogs that are constantly changing and growing, the ones that take on a variety of different subject areas, that are responsive and playful, and that seem to have a real person behind the scenes, only these sorts can really hold my interest for long.  These, like Sky Fishing, are the sorts of blogs that are going to get this award from me in the next few days.

So, here is your award, PF:

 cbablack.jpg

Wear it proudly.  Now you have to spread the wealth to five other blogs, following the tedious instructions here, or at least I have to ask you to.

Creative Blogger Award September 5, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, memes, Other, Wordpress.
2 comments

A few weeks ago, when I was feeling particularly despondent about this blog, MoonTopples tagged me with the award below.

cbablack.jpg

It is always nice to receive such honors, even in that garish pink color.  So thank you Mr. Topples.  I have opened up a widget on my sidebar for this and other awards. 

The Creative Blogger Award is

For those who bring unique and creative elements to their blogs. For those who incorporate art, music, creative writing, photo’s, and other beautiful visual effects into their website. For those who put a unique spin on things and come up with new ideas. This award is for the artsy, the funky, the inventor, and even the rebel. This award is for those creative individuals who stand out from the crowd.

I am supposed to pick five people to which I then award this thing.  I’ll get to that in the coming week, I think, because last night, WordPress fixed the technical issues I was having.  I can now comment on other WordPress sites without being placed into the spam queue. 

I never realized how much of this blogging thing was contingent upon the interactions with other bloggers.  I suspected it, but until I was shut out of that world I just didn’t realize the full extent.  Hope this never happens to any of you, this Web 2.0 Shunning, dear blogger.

Which words do you own?–Tales from the Reading Room July 14, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, Books, COMBS, Haiku, linguistics, literature, Other, statistical analysis, vocabulary.
7 comments

Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Other posts, whether analyzing particular blogs within the study or detailing the methodology of this thing or whatever, can be found at the Center for Occasional Meme and Blog-O-Sphere Studies [COMBS].  Go there by clicking here or the Center’s logo, which should be on the right (starboard) side-bar over there —->

About two months ago I took a sample of words from Litlove’s blog Tales from the Reading Room.  I added them to the vocabulary database, but I was reluctant to just do a normal post on them.  I wanted to do something a little special because Litlove had started this whole project, in a way, with one of her posts.  So I procrastinated, a favorite strategy of mine, until I could think of something more interesting.  I think I hit upon something, so without further ado . . .

Litlove’s word sample runs from March 31 – May 9, 2007.  Sample size was 25,741 words.  She added 905 words.   She used a wide variety of words–4,535 different words within the sample, pretty good, since her sample had 5,000 fewer words than most of the others.

Here is a word cloud comprised of the words used more than twice by Litlove but not at all by any of the other 18 blogs that went before her:

onlycloud.jpg

And here’s those words in a font called Love Letters:

onlycloud-loveletters.jpg

And here’s the Venn diagram I usually make out of these words:

llvenn.jpg

The left lobe consists of words that were new to the sample, that nobody else had used, sized relative to the frequency of use.  The middle part consists of words that everybody has used so far, sized according to how much more frequently Litlove used them in the sample than others did.  And the right lobe consists of words that everyone else sampled before her used, but that she did not. 

Here is another effort by my Haiku-generating algorithm, which crashed six times before yielding a Haiku made from only the most common words and the words Litlove added to the database (all of the crashes all had to do with a shortage of monosyllabic words of various types in Litlove’s pool of words.)

In boy’s forthright sneer
she adheres perilously
to the politeness.

Puzzling, like all good machine-generated poetry. 

And here is the new thing.  It’s an additional wordcloud that is a little more complicated than the others I have generated thus far.  This is the first time I have tried to explain it, so bear with me.  I calculated the average number of times each word in the database is used (per subject).  Then I subtracted the number of times each words was used in Litlove’s sample.  The postive numbers represent words that Litlove used more frequently than average.  Then I scaled these words by frequency of use in her sample.  But then I deleted the 65 most frequently used words in the database (see here for a partial list of these).  This yields a list of at least 100 words showing something new about the speech patterns/word choices of the blogger, Litlove, in this case.  I’m not at all sure what it shows, though.  So here’s Litlove’s cloud:

mtacloud.jpg

And for purposes of comparison, here’s one from last week’s subject, silverneurotic:

sn-mtacloud.jpg

I find these a little more interesting than the other visuals, at this point.  And since their appearance is not so firmly tied to the size of the samples, I can generate them with a much smaller sample from someone’s blog.  So I may just keep doing this, if I keep getting volunteers.

As always, the vocabulary clouds and Haiku are the property of the volunteers, except that said volunteer may not have them taken off of my site but may otherwise do with them what they wish.  Thanks for participating, Litlove, and sorry about the long wait.

K.F. Gallagher Writing Contest July 9, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogs, fiction, Other, Rock, writing.
3 comments

Kaitlyn has started a writing contest with a prompt from an old Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song.

I love Tom Petty. I recall quite vividly the only time I ever saw him in concert. Even though it was twenty-three years ago I can remember it almost like it was yesterday (which is often pretty hazy for me). One of the opening acts was Men at Work, that flash-in-the-pan Australian group. They put on a very nice show, but the crowd was not treating them very well. Some guy down near the front kept pelting the lead singer with chips of ice, and eventually he began to threaten the audience member with bodily harm. Many of us (some 30,00 people or more) were hoping that this Aussie would dive down into the crowd and rip the asshole’s head off.

But when Tom and his band took the stage they owned the crowd. The music was perfect. The atmosphere was perfect. It was amazing. If anybody threw ice at Tom the whole crowd would have decended upon the assailant and tore him to shreds, I think. At one point, Tom was just walking around holding a bottle of beer. I think it was during an extended introduction to “Breakdown.” Tom eventually gave his beer to someone in the crowd. You would have thought he had knighted somebody, from the reaction.

When we were driving back down to the valley after the concert (which was in the Sierra Nevada foothills) we sang every song we could think of in that Pettty-ish nasal whine (although we probably sounded more like Bob Dylan than Tom Petty). What a day.

Anyway, I have an idea for a story, which is something I haven’t had for a while, and I’m in. So stop by Kaitlyn’s blog, check out the rules and join me, allright?

Which words do you own?–Searching for Normalcy July 5, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, COMBS, Haiku, linguistics, Other, statistical analysis, vocabulary.
3 comments

Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Other posts, whether analyzing particular blogs within the study or detailing the methodology of this thing or whatever, can be found at the Center for Occasional Meme and Blog-O-Sphere Studies [COMBS].  Go there by clicking here or the Center’s logo, which should be on the right (starboard) side-bar over there —->

Anyway, the blog under the microscope today is Searching for Normalcy, published by Balou.  Her word sample runs from November 22, 2006 – June 27, 2007.  Sample size was 32,214 words.  She added 502 words, which is  more than what I would expect to see at this point in the experiment.   She used a wide variety of words–4,552 different words within the sample. 

Here is a word cloud comprised of the words used more than twice by Balou but not at all by any of the other 26 blogs sampled thus far:

balouonlycloudpic.jpg

Never ceases to amaze when words that seem so ubiquitous, words like maternity and crafts, pop up for the first time.  I mean, I’ve processed more than half a million words.  How did these not appear until now?  Words like “corals,” “ornament,” “starfish,” these I can understand, but “breakup?”  Go figure.  Please.

And here’s those words in a font called Lou:

onlycloudloupic.jpg

And here’s the Venn diagram I usually make out of these words:

balouvennpic.jpg

The left lobe consists of words that were new to the sample, that nobody else had used, sized relative to the frequency of use.  The middle part consists of words that everybody has used so far, sized according to how much more frequently Balou used them in the sample than others did.  And the right lobe consists of only two words that everyone else sampled thus far has used, but that she did not. Of these there are none, again.  The list of words that everyone uses is, I think, getting down to the bare essentials, sine quibus non of writing.

Here is another effort by my Haiku-generating algorithm, which crashed four times.  All of the crashes all had to do with a lack of monosyllabic adjectives in Balou’s pool of words.  So the algorithm is not to blame this time.  (I have a pretty good store of words now for this algorithm, by the way.  When I run it with all of the words (the ones I have coded as to number of syllables and part of speech, it rarely trips.)

Crabs, snails, big-eyed pairs,
dogma cleans the halo of
the tolerant brat.

The second and third lines are pretty straightforward, although it is difficult to imagine dogma doing something like that. The first line can be interpreted as apostrophe, I think (with an anthropomorphic bent).  “Big-eyed pairs” is evocative of a scene from an anime treatment of the biblical story of Noah, or perhaps even “Evan Almighty” (don’t know, haven’t seen it, but I’m judging by the commercials).  I’d be interested in any other theories, of course. 

As always, the vocabulary clouds and Haiku are the property of the volunteers, except that said volunteer may not have them taken off of my site but may otherwise do with them what they wish.  Thanks for participating, Balou!

Next up (early next week, prob’ly): litlove, ’cause I promised.

Wither Question #98? June 29, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, COMBS, memes, Other, statistical analysis, tagging.
2 comments

This is fourth in a series of posts about my study of responses to the dreaded 150 Things meme.  All of which will end up on the COMBS page of this site, eventually.

Zandperl,* of Strange Musings writes:

One thing I noticed in your “study” is that many people left out the #98, about naming a constellation. I believe that I deliberately omitted it from mine since I’m an astronomer and know that in reality you can’t name your own constellation (the International Astronomical Union, of anti-Pluto fame, actually names them), but I’m curious if you know why all the other people omitted it and who started it.

Ah, well, I was curious about that, too.  Many people omitted this question before you deleted it from you list.  Difficult to say why, at least without more research (Oh, Boy!), but it may have been because there were at least two different questions numbered 98 by then.  Most people who answered the question (meaning that they included it in their list) put it in as “created and named your own constellation.”  But a few answered a different question #98: “passed out cold.” 

Perhaps a short paragraph regarding method is in order.  This “study” sampled blogs that responded to this meme by going to Technorati and typing in the first line of the meme as a search term.  Then I scrolled through 50 pages (500 blogs) until I got to the 50th, and worked backwards.  (I figured that with some blogs being deleted and some being offline for other reasons, I would be able to get a sample of 300 or so with which I could do this “study.”)** 

The earliest blog in the sample (um, the earliest for which I have a date) was Purple Valley, written by val, published on October 19, 2006.  If one wanted, one could trace the meme back, starting with the people that tagged her (which can be found on her post, here) and probably, perhaps, find the origin of the meme. 

What a discovery that would be!  Like Burton and Speke searching for the origin of the Nile. It would take you to the wilds of the Internet Archive, I suppose. If nobody wants to do that, I would understand.  But I am otherwise engaged at the moment. If sombody does want this job, I’d be happy to put them on the list of advisors at COMBS (which would mean putting up a page for that sort of thing, of course).  Such a research affiliate could choose their own title and role there, we’re not stuffy about that sort of thing.

Finally, my sincerest apologies for not responding to comments in the last two weeks.  There have been many, and I have responded to many of them on other peoples’ blogs, because my blog, this blog, perhaps for very good reasons, treats my own comments as spam and filters them out.  Yes.  It does.  And then yesterday when I discovered what Akismet was doing I attempted to “unspam” these comments.  It ignored my efforts as efficiently as only a computer algorithm can ignore things.  It did.

*Does one capitalize the lower case name of a nom-de-blog when it starts a sentence?  I couldn’t find anything in Strunk and White to cover this.

**zandperl put the word “study” in quotation marks, which I’m going to adopt here.  As soon as I have the time I’m going to change it throughout the blog, even going so far as to change it within the logo for COMBS.  Although I am making a serious attempt to get all of this stuff right, I’m not fooling myself into lending my findings more scientific weight or import than they can bear.  Having done some serious polling, public opinion, and marketing research, I know how to do a serious study.  Most of the questions in this particular meme have multiple interpretations, which would be inadmissible as a study.  Take question #98, for example.  I interpreted it to mean something like what the fictional ogre Shrek did in his first movie, pointing at the sky and telling Donkey that there was a constellation called “Gabby” named after a talkative donkey.   What I am doing here is not a series of studies; these are “studies.”

The Impulsively Generous June 26, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, COMBS, memes, Other, philanthropy, statistical analysis, tagging.
1 comment so far

One of the fun parts of statistical research is connecting data that seemlingly have nothing to do with one another.  For example, does one’s propensity to give too much money to charity have anything to do with the probablility that one has touched a cockroach? 

As it turns out, within the statistical sample I took of bloggers who responded to the 150 things meme, the answer is yes.  People who had at some point given more money than they had to charity were much more likely to have touched a cockroach. 

I intend to do a few more crosstabulations of the implications of my study of the 150 things meme and would be delighted to have this research directed by readers.  Just let me know about your pet theories (as they pertain to data in the 150 things meme) and I’ll run the numbers.  Obviously I need some sort of direction because there are more than 12,000 possible crosstabulations in this dataset. 

Anyway, I started with an analysis of question #24, (have you ever given more than you could afford to charity) because responses were almost evenly split, which gave me two samples of more than 100 to compare.  But the question also caught my eye because I work in fundraising.  So I’m always looking to shed more light on philanthropy, when I can.  What else does an extensive crosstabulation of question #24 tell us?  Those who had given more than they could afford to charity were significantly more likely to have

  • Bought everyone in the bar a drink,
  • Held a tarantula,
  • Taken a candlelit bath with someone,
  • Hugged a tree,
  • Watched a meteor shower,
  • Gotten drunk on champagne,
  • Had a food fight,
  • Asked out a stranger,
  • Held a lamb,
  • Seen a total eclipse,
  • Taken a midnight walk on the beach,
  • Milked a cow,
  • Pretended to be a superhero,
  • Started a business,
  • Fallen in love and not had their heart broken,
  • Crashed a party,
  • Recorded music,
  • Picked up and moved to another city just to start over,
  • Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild,
  • Changed someone’s mind about something they care deeply about,
  • Eaten fried green tomatos, and
  • Selected one “important” author they missed in school and read (them)

As they say, correlation does not imply causality, except when it does, of course.  Just because these people were more likely, as a group, to have eaten fried green tomatos than the non-impulsively generous group doesn’t mean that people who are careful and/or stingy have an aversion to that food.  But it sorta makes you think, duznit?  And if nothing else, these crosstabulations point in the same direction as every other bit of research that COMBS has produced and will ever produce: 

Needs more research.

Blogger, are You Experienced? June 21, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, memes, Other, statistical analysis, tagging, web 2.0.
34 comments

Last week I began a statistical examination of blogger responses to the lengthy meme “150 Things,” which is a long list of experiences that bloggers have been tagging each other with for at least a year or so. (If you came here because of a trackback, I included your blog in the statistical sample). Those tagged copy the list and reproduce it on their blog, with their experiences/accomplishments in bold type.  Response percentages (from a sample of 222 blogs) may be found in a summary report here. They are probably more interesting to look at in that form.  But if you want, I could put together some bar charts from the data.  Let me know. 

The percentages are pretty easy to use, I think.  Just look at a question, like #7, for example.  Sixty-three (63) percent of the bloggers sampled have taken a candlelit bath with someone.  If you have not, that makes you a loser :).  Or take question #40.  Only one percent of the bloggers sampled have been to all 50 states.  If you have, that’s an extraordinary accomplishment.  If you have not, well, almost nobody else has.  Don’t let it get to you.  Some of them are a little boring anyway, I suspect. 

For those who prefer this stuff in narrative form, I must point out that this was a pretty eclectic group of questions.  At any rate, most (more than half of the sample plus a percentage to account for sampling error) of the bloggers who took the time to bold the tasks that they had accomplished are not the sedentary creatures portrayed in the mainstream media.  Although most have lounged around in bed all day at least once (59), they obviously don’t make a lifestyle out of it.  They just don’t have the time.

They are social.  Most have formed friendships with people they admire (42).  Sure, they have had their share of skirmishes with their buddies, involving food (27) or frozen water (30), but they are supportive when it counts (41).  Most have an impulsive (88), romantic streak (7, 49, 62, 83) and have professed their love to significant others (8).  Despite their geeky reputations some have broken hearts along the way (110).  But they have also experienced love without getting their hearts broken (68) and ended up getting married (72) and having children (or at least changing them—20).

They may have an undeserved reputation for geekiness.  Most have never played D&D for more than six hours (71) or written their own computer language (140), although most have at some point alphabetized their CDs (56).  These people have used firearms (116), most of them, and ridden a horse (118), perhaps at the same time.  They are not to be trifled with—most of them have eaten raw fish.  It takes guts.  I remember. 

Perhaps they are not extroverts, but they have, possibly via liquid fortification (23), cut loose a little (36, 58, 102, 146).Most have gone to drive-in theaters (65), ridden roller coasters (34, perhaps where they screamed as loud as they could–31), attended huge sporting events (15) and stayed up late enough to watch the sun rise (13).
Most have not traveled extensively, although most took a road trip at some point in time and have toured ancient sites, whatever those are (47, 69).

They are effective communicators, although not necessarily with words (138).  Most say they have changed peoples minds (129).  If they are not perfectly happy, this group has known happiness (38).

They are a do-it-yourself group.  They make their own food, from scratch, if necessary, watching it grow from seeds, perhaps, into sugar cane, corn, wheat, etc., grinding the grain, smooshing the corn to make oil, and turning the finished bounty into cookies (17, 77).

This is the first of a small series of posts on this particular meme.  If your blog didn’t get a trackback from this yet, and you would like to be included, just comment, link to this post (from your 150 things post, if possible), or wave your arms or something—I’d be happy to put you in.  And if anybody has suggestions for other memes that might be in interesting study, do please let me know.  I’m thinking about doing one of the book memes rattling around, since the format is similar.

The blogs sampled for this particular study are listed below, with links (many didn’t have actual titles, particularly the ones from MySpace, so I am listing them with only their ID numbers.)

001, 004, 005, 006, 007, 008, 009, 010, 011, 012, 013, 014, 015, 016, 017, 018, 019, 020, 021, 022, 023, 024, 025, 027, 030, 031, 032, 033, 034, 035, 036, 037, 038, 039, 040, 041, 042, 043, 044, 045, 046, 047, 048, 049, 050, 051, 052, 053, 054, 055, 056, 057, 058, 059, 060, 062, 063, 064, 066, 067, 068, 069, 070, 071, 072, 073, 074, 075, 076, 077, 078, 079, 080, 081, 082, 083, 084, 085, 086, 087, 088, 089, 090, 091, 092, 093, 094, 095, 096, 097, 098, 099, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 192, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200, 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, and 222.